Being humiliated and screamed at was something I thought I'd left behind me with my family. Perhaps that's why it was both so unexpected and difficult to deal with last night.
I didn't really want to go, didn't really feel 100%, but it was Zelda's birthday so I felt obligated to, at least for one drink. As is always the way, once I was there I was really glad I went and met all sorts of friends of friends I'd not met before.
When I arrived I went and sat down before going to the bar and ordering myself a glass of orange juice and a bowl of chips for us all to pick at. Both Ziggy and his gf immediately offered to go to the bar for me, as they always do, being a protective and considerate bunch, but at the time I could do it myself so that's what I did. Independence being important an' all that.
Meeting sis's ex had made it somewhat of an emotionally trying night, and physically so because I'd gone outside to chat to him whilst he smoked, and sat on a metal chair in the cold. I had a proper coat and gloves on, but it was still too cold for me, and combined with another trip to the bar to buy him a sympathy drink and trips to the loo, I was all done being able to move around by the end of the night.
When it came to closing time, initially a female (slightly older) member of staff came over and asked us to stand up and move to the door where they were trying to get everyone out. Ziggy, by then very drunk and in full on protective mode didn't need to ask me to know that was going to be a problem and said to the lady something about my having mobility problems and that we needed to wait sitting down until the crowd had cleared. She was fine about that and carried on with her job.
The male manager was having none of it however. He came over and immediately started shouting. Whilst Ziggy (somewhat slurrily) attempted to explain that I had mobility issues and we just wanted to wait sitting down whilst the crush at the door cleared, the manager found that unacceptable and said to me directly that I did not have mobility problems because he'd served me a bowl of chips at the bar earlier and I had been standing. I can only assume he chose to ignore the orange juice I ordered during his rant as a sober person didn't fit with his theory of lying about disability.
Unsurprisingly it all got a bit heated at that point, the manager was determined to communicate only by screaming or shouting and was not going to back down. Ziggy was incensed, I was shocked, angry and deeply humiliated, and of course whereas initially it had been just a couple of us quietly sitting down asking to wait, and repeatedly insisting we didn't want to keep our drinks that they could clear them, it very quickly escalated to everyone left in the pub staring and those from the wider group of friends who were left coming back to back us up.
The manager continued to shout at myself and Ziggy in front of the entire pub, as things progressed he must've realised he'd made a mistake accusing me of not having any mobility issues, but he was not going to back down and tried to say that I could sit and wait, but that Ziggy and all my other friends had to leave and that he or another member of staff would assist me. Unsurprisingly I found that unacceptable and told him so, but he didn't want to back down on that either and continued to shout. I suggested (loudly and somewhat angrily by this time) that under the terms of Disability Discrimination Act he might just find we were in the right, but he still didn't want to back down and continued to scream and shout.
What I hadn't wanted to say during all this was that after moving around too much earlier, being out in the cold, and then sitting for too long, I couldn't get up. That in itself can be a bit humiliating, but I'm lucky to have great friends who offer help appropriately and don't insist on doing things if I say I can or want to do them myself. It certainly wasn't something I was prepared to start explaining to the manager of a Wetherspoons who had already accused me of lying about my disability, refused all reasonable requests for a very minor adjustment and who now wanted me to be left on my own, in a highly vulnerable position and accept assistance from the very person who'd just screamed at me for the past 5 minutes. The answer he got was simply that that was entirely unacceptable and that did he really want to go there.
He did. The guy just would not back down. He tried insisting that they would provide assistance for a few more moments, screaming and shouting whilst Ziggy in an absolute (drunken) fury demanded the police be called. I said that was neither necessary or appropriate (although had the manager not backed down eventually we'd probably have been left with no choice) and that I didn't want the police, but was insistent about the DDA again and by that point I think the manager had realised he'd made a major error in judgement and in some way was going to have to back down.
He wouldn't let it go though and insisted Ziggy had to leave. Pointed to Zelda, appointing her as the one he deemed acceptable to stay and help me, and told Ziggy to go. Fortunately Ziggy did and didn't argue the point further, although as Zelda was just as drunk as Ziggy the only possible reason for insisting he leave and she stay could have been to do with Ziggy arguing with him.
Zelda and I sat and waited, whilst another girl I've known for years came over to say hello and give me a hand. She knew some of the bar staff and had obviously been telling them the manager had made a mistake whilst he was too busy screaming and shouting to listen to reason.
We waited for the crush at the door to clear, but before long the manager was back insisting the crowd had gone and we had to leave now. We were not the last people in the pub by any means, but by then I just wanted to go home anyway, and there wasn't so much of a crowd I was afraid of being knocked over or getting multiple dislocations as we tried to get through. The manager was so insistent we had to get out there was no way he would have allowed us to wait until it was actually safe, so with assistance from Zelda on one side and the other girl I knew on the other we made our way to the door. On our way there the female member of staff asked if we were ok, and I told her I would be making a formal complaint about the incident. She told me he was the manager as if to say there was nothing she or I could do about it. The area around the inside and outside of the doors was still dangerously crowded as we tried to get out, to where Ziggy and the others were waiting to help.
This morning I'm still horrified, as well as humiliated, angry and upset about the whole thing. Whilst I'm aware I have a mainly invisible disability, my size makes me noticeably vulnerable looking and I do walk with a very visible 'gimp' (it's not a limp before anyone objects to the term). I also understand that people try it on at the end of the night in pubs, but that doesn't make the manager's behaviour in any way acceptable. Had he just asked a question about what the problem was rather than immediately starting screaming and shouting at us the whole event could have been avoided.
2008. Disability Discrimination Act 1995. We've got a very long way to go.